COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the vital importance of a strong, reliable and resilient national logistics system. America’s mariners, who help safely transport cargo through our nation’s waterways – including California – are the linchpin in that system. As always, they have continued to work around the clock to keep critical deliveries moving.
The strong American maritime workforce that comes through each day for our nation is due in large part to a law enacted 100 years ago this month, the Jones Act. This landmark statute requires that vessels transporting cargo between U.S. ports must be operated by Americans. It also requires that these ships be built in the United States and be owned by Americans. Over 90 countries around the world have similar rules regarding the movement of cargo by vessels in their waters.
With so much of global commerce and travel disrupted by the pandemic, the need for a thriving and fully functioning domestic maritime industry has perhaps never been more important. Americans depend on our nation’s expert mariners to keep critically important shipments of medicine, food, groceries, and petroleum products on track. Today, and every day, these American mariners are on the job for their fellow citizens.
The packages you receive at home, the fuel you pump into your car’s gas tank, and the energy that helps turn the lights on likely came to market with the help of skilled American mariners. Everyone from swine farmers in Hawaii, to petroleum producers in Alaska and the Gulf Coast, to wheat farmers in Kansas rely on mariners to help ensure their goods and products get to where they need to be. Without the dedication and commitment of U.S. mariners, store shelves would quickly empty and our nation’s economy would grind to a halt.
One of the crews at the company I lead, Centerline Logistics, helps illustrate the critically important role of American mariners in always being there for the American people. Each week, tug boat operators cross the Bering Sea from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Akutan Island, towing a barge full of life-sustaining provisions. After offloading the cargo, containers full of fish products are loaded onto the barge for the return trip – a first step in the journey to consumers in the continental U.S.
Demonstrating our strong commitment as an American company to keeping the nation moving even in the midst of a pandemic, Centerline chartered air service to ensure our mariners could continue to report for duty even after commercial air service ceased in this remote part of the nation. Because our crew members come from as far away as Alabama, Idaho, and Las Vegas, we take seriously our role to ensure our essential workers can continue to work each day in service to their fellow citizens.
The Jones Act, which has endured now for a century, performs a critical role in ensuring that American marine transportation workers are in place when the nation needs them most. Moreover, this law provides a durable framework that enables American marine transportation companies to invest in an industry that is vitally important to the American people. These investments are substantial: the maritime industry helps drive 650,000 jobs and $154 billion in economic activity.
100 years after the enactment of the Jones Act, our nation continues to reap the benefits of a robust American maritime industry. As we look back at a century of progress for American mariners, the Jones Act will help ensure that America’s marine transportation sector remains an engine in the U.S. economy and a rock solid component of our nation’s interconnected logistics system.
This article was written By Matt Godden